What major record labels can learn from Ropeadope

American record label Ropeadope is changing the way it does business. Wired reports that, from February, the label is launching a digital offshoot that will only sell music in MP3 format. More importantly, they are giving artists a fair deal. Royalties will be shared between artist and label and the artist will retain the rights the the masters of their recordings. What chance is there that the major labels, famous for bleating about how much they care for artists, will adopt similar policies. None at all, obviously. Our own BPI, which represents labels in the UK, is holding a seminar at the end of the month so that budding artists can learn the importance of "exchanging their intellectual property rights for the expertise that enables them to distribute and sell their music".

As Grant Robertson at the Digital Music Weblog says: "Signing away intellectual property rights isn't ... so smart given the radical changes to the music business that are happening almost daily."

And it certainly isn't a smart thing to do when all you're getting in return is "expertise" in how to distribute and sell music. These days anyone with a MySpace account is halfway there.

Is the BPI really stupid enough to think this is a good deal for artists these days or is this another music industry con job? I really don't know. Idiots or conmen, it's a tough call.

Meanwhile, the BPI's equivalent in the States, the RIAA (motto: no customer left unsued) has been lobbying to reduce royalty payments to artists for digital music. That's right, the people who have been crusading against internet filesharing because of the damage it does to artist royalties wants to cut those royalties even further.

Given that digital distribution costs far less - no artwork, no packaging, a thousand copies are as cheap to produce as ten copies - you'd think they'd be paying artists more.

As more and more artists are discovering, they don't need major labels. And nor do we. Let's hope at least one of these dinosaurs becomes extinct in 2007.